Financial instrument

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MiFID 2 Anatomy™
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MiFID 2: Less fondly known as EU Directive 2014/65/EU (EUR Lex) | MiFID 1 Articles: 16(7) (Recording of Communications)

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Financial instrument
/fɪˈnanʃ(ə)l ˈɪnstrʊm(ə)nt/ (n.)

Colloquially, a contract creating financial liabilities between two parties. It can, but need not, be negotiable, but its main feature — its sine qua non — is that it cannot be created, maintained, managed, looked after, transferred, monetised or redeemed — it cannot move or breathe, in other words — except through the agency of someone who will deduct a fee from the proceeds of your investment for the privilege.

MiFID

A whole world of tedium under MiFID II. Defined, as “those instruments specified in Section C of Annex I” which are as follows —

Financial Instruments

(1) Transferable securities;
(2) Money-market instruments;
(3) Units in collective investment undertakings (UCITS);
(4) Options, futures, swaps, forward rate agreements and any other derivative contracts relating to securities, currencies, interest rates or yields, or other derivatives instruments, financial indices or financial measures which may be settled physically or in cash;
(5) Options, futures, swaps, forward rate agreements and any other derivative contracts relating to commodities that must be settled in cash or may be settled in cash at the option of one of the parties (otherwise than by reason of a default or other termination event);
(6) Options, futures, swaps and any other derivative contract relating to commodities that can be physically settled provided that they are traded on a regulated market and/or an MTF;
(7) Options, futures, swaps, forwards and any other derivative contracts relating to commodities, that can be physically settled not otherwise mentioned in C.6 and not being for commercial purposes, which have the characteristics of other derivative financial instruments, having regard to whether, inter alia, they are cleared and settled through recognised clearing houses or are subject to regular margin calls; (8) Derivative instruments for the transfer of credit risk;
(9) Financial contracts for differences;
(10) Options, futures, swaps, forward rate agreements and any other derivative contracts relating to climatic variables, freight rates, emission allowances or inflation rates or other official economic statistics that must be settled in cash or may be settled in cash at the option of one of the parties (otherwise than by reason of a default or other termination event), as well as any other derivative contracts relating to assets, rights, obligations, indices and measures not otherwise mentioned in this Section, which have the characteristics of other derivative financial instruments, having regard to whether, inter alia, they are traded on a regulated market or an MTF, are cleared and settled through recognised clearing houses or are subject to regular margin calls.

Derivatives”, “transferable securities”, “securitised derivatives”, “structured finance products”...

Step this way for a one-way trip down an open manhole. The definitions aren’t “disjunctive”: something that is a transferable security can also be a money market instrument, a unit in collective investment scheme. Alas, a “derivative”, in MiFID speak, is restricted to those countenanced in sections 4-10, but that may not be the end of the matter:

derivative’ or ‘derivative contract’ means a financial instrument as set out in points (4) to (10) of Section C of Annex I to 2004/39/EC (EUR Lex)[1] as implemented by Article 38 and 39 of 1287/2006 (EUR Lex);

Details fiends will note a rather winsome circularity here, for each of the limbs (other than “financial contracts for differences”) employs the expression “derivative contract”, being the very one it purports to describe.

Elsewhere — in Article 2(7) of EMIR — the Commission speaks of “OTC derivatives” or “OTC derivative contracts” — to distinguish them from “exchange-traded derivatives”, which it defines as:

a derivative contract the execution of which does not take place on a regulated market as within the meaning of Article 4(1)(14) of MiFID or on a third-country market considered as equivalent to a regulated market in accordance with Article 19(6) of MiFID

The implication here is that those taking place on a trading venue (such as an OTF or MTF) which is not a regulated market nonetheless count as OTC derivatives. But in any weather, this leaves the question of asset-backed securities unaddressed. Could something that at first glance falls outside the scope of paras 4-10, but on closer inspection may also falls within it — say, a transferable security with an embedded derivative, like a credit-linked note or even a plain old repackaging, for example — count as a “derivative contract”? European Commission draftspersons are sometimes cavalier with words you wish they’d been more careful about, and this is such a time. Unintended consequences hover over either interpretation.

You may be minded, as the JC was, once, to wonder whether a these may qualify as a “securitised derivative”, a “structured finance product” or a “commodity derivative” — all legislative terms in the MiFID/MiFIR/EMIR memeplex. Proceed only if you are unusually tolerant to tension headaches, or have a lot of time to kill on a wet afternoon. For as best we can make out:

commodity derivatives’ means those financial instruments defined in point (44)(c) of Article 4(1) of MiFID; which relate to a commodity or an underlying referred to in Section C(10) of Annex I[2] to MiFID; or in points (5), (6), (7) and (10) of Section C of Annex I thereto;

Which means securities, such as certificates, do qualify as commodity derivatives if they relate to a commodity, but emissions (and non-commodity underliers) do not. We know this because even the BaFIN thinks this.[3] Fair enough: non-commodities aren't commodities, but there appears to be no equivalent widening of non-commodity derivatives to include funded, asset-backed or securitised instruments.

What isn’t a MiFID financial instrument

A good place to look (if your interest level counts as “fiendish”) is the snappily titled Commission Delegated Regulation 2017/565/EU (EUR Lex) of 25 April 2016 supplementing Directive 2014/65/EU (EUR Lex) of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards organisational requirements and operating conditions for investment firms and defined terms for the purposes of that Directive.

Spot FX isn’t: At any rate, it makes clear, at Article 10, that Spot FX is not a financial instrument.

Why aren’t debt securities traded on exchange?

Unlike shares which can trade on exchange, in organised trading facilities or over-the-counter, debt securities (bonds, notes, MTNs, certificates of deposit and so on) tend to trade only over-the-counter. They are not traded on exchange, and (while in bearer form) tend not to be traded in the secondary market nearly as often.

A given issuer tends to issue only one type of share (okay, maybe two - ordinary shares and preference shares). All of its ordinary shares are the same and are interchangeable (technically, they’re “fungible” with each other), meaning the same security is common across all venues in the market. That’s what gets listed, and it is (relatively) liquid.

By contrast, debt securitiess come in all kinds of shares and sizes. The same issuer might issue hundreds of different series with different economic characteristics, maturities and yields and features. Bonds of one series are not fungible with bonds of other series. Hence a given bond is generally far less liquid than an ordinary share of the same issuer. This, there are more issuers, and issues of bonds with different characteristics, which makes it difficult for bonds to be traded on exchanges. Another reason why bonds are traded over the counter is the difficulty in listing current prices.

See also

References

  1. That’s MiFID and not MiFID II to its friends — even though MiFID II has updated somewhat the Section C of Annex I to include emissions certificates.
  2. “Options, futures, swaps, forward rate agreements and any other derivative contracts relating to climatic variables, freight rates or inflation rates or other official economic statistics that must be settled in cash or may be settled in cash at the option of one of the parties other than by reason of default or other termination event, as well as any other derivative contracts relating to assets, rights, obligations, indices and measures not otherwise mentioned in this Section, which have the characteristics of other derivative financial instruments, having regard to whether, inter alia, they are traded on a regulated market, OTF, or an MTF;”
  3. See the BaFIN on position limits.